BY JENNIFER CROWLEY
More than 60 people came out to Scottsville’s first public political forum to learn more about candidates in the village’s upcoming mayoral and trustee election happening on March 20th. The forum, held on March 4th at the Scottsville Fire Pavilion, attracted over 50 percent of the candidate panel. The Scottsville Rotary and Sentinel Publications (publisher of The Mendon Honeoye Falls Lima Sentinel) co-sponsored the event; Chris Carosa from The Sentinel and former Scottsville mayor, Mike Souers, moderated the two-hour forum. Souers and Carosa framed candidate questions from input collected via an online survey seeking insight on resident concerns.
The forum kicked off with the focus on Patrick Colville, the only mayoral candidate in attendance. His opponent, retired schoolteacher Eileen Hansen, declined the invitation citing a prior commitment. For nearly 45 minutes, the moderators questioned 57-year old Colville on matters ranging from sustaining the Scottsville Fire Department (SFD) to improving the village’s business environment in order to broaden a fairly narrow revenue base. Questions were framed from resident input gathered on an online survey seeking insight on what is on the minds of residents.
Colville, who described himself as “semi-retired” with previous professional experience in the retail development area, moved to Scottsville from Geneseo two years ago. The candidate said it was the charm and small-town, “Mayberry” feel that he found alluring and the reason he decided in 2017 to throw his hat in the mayoral ring.
As for Colville’s ‘newness’ to the village, when people try to position his relatively short resident tenure as a negative, he explains why he sees it as a positive, that yes, after only two years, he is ready to “jump in with both feet.” And this largely has to do with his self-described high energy personality, people skills and vision.
When it came to questions about how the village can increase its spending ability without impact on taxpayers, Colville’s answer was to develop more tax revenue. At the heart of the plan he offered is the vacant (or nearly vacant) Ambrell building on Main Street which is both large in size and close to the Oatka Creek. The vision Colville shared for bringing new business to Scottsville is based on an idea for the village to purchase the building, renovate it and create a convention center type facility that could be utilized in support of recreation (such as fishing and kayaking in the Creek), events (i.e., banquets, weddings) and even a brewery, in order to leverage Scottsville’s natural resources, proximity to the airport and opportunity to become a tourist destination.
After laying out his thoughts for developing a business district that does much more than serve the needs of its residents and those in neighboring communities, the moderators questioned Colville on “how” such a vision can be achieved. While certainly the financial implications of such an idea are significant, how Colville will work with and alongside a board of trustees that is tasked with representing the best interests of taxpayers was the real question.
Colville responded that he understands that things may not always go his way, but when it comes to collaborating, “working with people is easy for me” and again referenced his negotiation skills as a large part of the reasons why and how he believes he can get the job done. He also expressed his belief that the mayoral role is a 40-hour per week job though it has always been budgeted as a part-time position. He said that regardless of the pay, he will put in the hours and effort needed to “turn the village around.”
Once the mayoral component of the forum concluded, attendees had a break to enjoy coffee and desserts courtesy of the Scottsville Rotary. During this time the three trustee candidates in attendance, Camille Martina (two-year term), incumbent Christie Offen and incumbent Maggie Ridge, both seeking four-year board terms, took to the front of the room to answer questions similar to what Colville faced. Two other trustee candidates, Kathie Carl (two-year term) and incumbent Leslie Lubking Wager (four-year term), running mates on the Community First ticket alongside mayoral candidate Hansen, were unable to participate in the forum.
With two out of the three trustee candidates present at the forum currently serving in the role each hopes to retain, the post-break question and answer session had a decidedly different feel to it. While Colville laid out vision, much of the trustee discussion focused thematically around details and execution.
Board “newcomer” Candidate Martina, a researcher with the University of Rochester Medical Center and Second Street resident for eight years now, offered her work with community (the Forestry Board, the Scottsville Free Library) and non-profit organizations as illustrations of her history with service. She additionally referred to these experiences as fodder she could draw from to foster collaboration and identify new opportunities. When it came to how the village may have to forego some “nice to have” luxuries – think flowers on Main Street – she offered a willingness to gather volunteer support (think gardening hobbyists) to fill in gaps that tough budget decisions will likely create, at least on a temporary basis.
Offen, a legal assistant and third-generation Scottsvillian whose grandfather was once fire chief, was appointed to the board in 2017 after a member resigned. The Main Street resident offered her work with the Friends of the Library group and American Legion as examples of her service ethic beyond her work on the village board. As Offen addressed the moderator’s questions, she spoke of the time and effort she has devoted to the role over the last several months in order to do the job well. One example she offered was orchestrating meetings with residents of Scot Crescent over flooding issues. She also talked about her active seeking of opportunities to interact with residents directly to hear their concerns and ideas. This is how Offen described her approach to “hearing people” when the majority don’t attend village meetings.
It was Offen that also shed the most detail around ideas to sustain the growing financial and regulatory needs of the SFD. “About 70 percent of our coverage district has no fire hydrants. This means the trucks have to be bigger to carry more water, which means more cost.” Offen also cited the fact that over the past four years call volume to the SFD has markedly increased. All four candidates agreed the community absolutely needs the SFD given some of the community’s unique characteristics (think old wooden homes and sprawling Wheatland farms) and has to do a better job of thinking and acting strategically to meet the department’s needs which are all reasonable in nature.
Like Offen, the third candidate, Ridge, has been serving on the village board for just under a year, the result of an appointment stemming from a seat vacancy. Ridge has nearly 20 years of experience in the financial sector and jokingly spoke of her ability to “add and subtract” as a key attribute she brings to the role. Ridge, who has also been acting as mayor for the past several weeks, like Offen, spoke of the time she has devoted to learning the ins and outs of public office while grasping the realities of the village’s challenging financial outlook. She spoke of her desire to “keep going” with the role, building on the experience she has gained and the rapport built with other board members.
Ridge was most vocal during questions pertaining to the revitalization of Scottsville’s Main Street and overall ability to attract new business. Like Colville, the Ambrell building was central to Ridge’s vision for the most significant revenue opportunity near the village’s grasp. She cited “creativity” as what she brings to the table and talked about ideas for growth such as engaging the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) to understand available grant opportunities. Specifically she referenced the newly launched ‘Imagine Monroe’ program umbrella that is focused on providing support to attract economically sound commerce and improve resident quality of life throughout Monroe County. Ridge also talked about some ‘lower hanging fruit’ type ideas for the Ambrell building including public swap meet space and an indoor farmers market. She additionally offered the idea of a licensed daycare center which generated a fair amount of attendee head nodding.
For voters seeking to learn more about candidate’s positions on sustaining the fire department, improving the village revenue base, delivering on transparency in governance and better positioning Scottsville for the future (ideally as an independent village), all candidates will be hosting meet and greet events between now and election day. Residents are encouraged to check Facebook for current event dates, times and locations. The village is additionally holding its monthly board meeting on Tuesday, March 13th at 6:30 PM in the municipal building. Trustee candidates Offen, Ridge and Wagar are expected at that meeting, presiding in their current roles, giving interested residents who could not make today’s forum the opportunity to witness their board presence and interactions live.